Bruce K. Nelson Faculty Development Center

109 Halle Library
Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197

[email protected]

Online/Remote Teaching

Start Here - Who Are You? 

  • I've Never Used Canvas. Where Do I Start?

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    1. Register for Canvas Quick Start training Registration Page
    2. Make sure you're connected.
    3. Master some basic tasks.
      • Leave a short post in Discussion Forum - Say Hello!
    4. Request shells for your classes if you don't already have them.
      • Teaching shells have the 5-digit CRN number in the short title ["UNIV 101 (19438)"].  This shows that enrolled students will automatically get access.
      • To request shells look for our email to instructors with the Subject line "CFE - Canvas Shell Request Invitation"
      • Or send us an email request to [email protected]. Include the CRN in your request!  (Everything we do runs on CRNs.  If you request our help with a course shell, include the 5-digit CRN for fastest service.)
    5. Advice
      • Canvas has a variety of tools you might use to augment a course: assignments with a grading tool, threaded discussions, quiz/exams, Studio lecture-capture, Zoom synchronous meetings.  Don't try to use everything at once.  Choose two or three tools to learn early on, and add others when you get used to the system.
      • Sign up for or watch recordings of additional training to learn the tools you want to use.
      • Maximize classroom or Zoom synchronous meeting times for activities that require dialog.  Move other activities or resources to Canvas.
  • I Need to Move a Course Online. What's next?

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    1. Create a summary outline of your course, including lists of:
      • Weekly or module topics (If you use a textbook these are possibly the chapter titles. It's uncanny how they always have fourteen chapters.)
      • Assessments divided into categories/types
      • Resources
    2. Create a draft module
      • Choose a module in the middle of the course, one that has the most different types of activities.  Draft it out completely in Word and then copy into Canvas, or compose directly in Canvas.
      • Ask someone to read through it and then write a list of what they would do that week in order.  Were your activities and instructions clear?  Revise as necessary.
    3. Plan/schedule the rest of the work
      • Now you know you can create a solid module.  How much time did it take you to create, and can you replicate that to complete the work? 
      • Your initial plan is likely to be ambitious, scale back your course design as necessary.  Like writing, good online courses are revised. 

    Content delivery and lectures

    Remember that not all content delivery needs to come from a lecture. If you already have a slide deck, determine whether adding the slides to your Canvas course conveys enough information to guide students.

    Other non-lecture ideas:

    • Assign readings or case studies and then use a student discussion to explore topics rather than a presentation format.
    • Create scaffolded notes for students to work through rather than having to watch a recorded lecture

    Alternatives to Traditional Textbooks

    "Some EMU faculty have had success using a combination of the following types of materials in lieu of a traditional textbook: Open Access Textbooks, Alternative Textbooks, Library Ebooks, and Open Educational Resources (OERs), to much more. EMU's Library has a Research Guide for Textbook Alternatives.

    If lectures are a critical piece of your content

    Your first consideration is whether you want to use a live (or synchronous) lecture. Using video conferencing tools (such as Zoom) allow you to share content and have interactions with students and even host small group breakout sessions. A live session may help bring continuity to your course (particularly if you host it during the same time as you would your “regular” class). Some drawbacks to using a live session are that everyone has to be online at the same time. Therefore, if you do decide on a live session, it is recommended that you record that session for students who cannot attend at that time. Live sessions are also not recommended for large classes (75 or more students).

    A second option would be to record content for learners to engage with at a time best suited to their needs and situation (i.e., asynchronous). This not only gives you as the instructor the flexibility to record on your own schedule but allows students who may not be feeling well enough to participate in a live session to still engage with content. You can record a lecture beforehand with Canvas Studio and save it in the class. These recordings don’t have to show you talking — many recorded lectures record your audio but show slides for the visual component.

    Interact with students as they work. Whether it is commenting on a document as it is drafted online, dropping into a chat room or simply acknowledging students in live sessions, make the journey with them. This environment is very appropriate for the constructivist approach of encouraging students to organize their own knowledge. Let them know that not only are they looking at you, you are looking at them.

    Exams and Assignments

    Canvas is a great place to collect assessments and offer feedback to students. To have students submit files, add an Assignment in Canvas. Once students submit a file, you can provide feedback through Speedgrader.

    If you are accustomed to giving exams, you can do so by leveraging Quizzes in Canvas or you may want to think about a different type of assessment, for example, using a case study or a writing assignment.

    If there is a large scale disruption, you may need to take into account that many students might need to delay the completion of specific assignments given their personal circumstances. As a result, you may want to rethink different ways for students to demonstrate knowledge.


    Labs usually rely on specific equipment and hands-on activities. The following ideas, however, may help you modify your labs so that remote participants can engage or so that you may teach them fully online.

    • Consider altering lab activities. For instance, you may shift the focus from data collection to data analysis. Provide students with sample data, perhaps in the form in which it would have been collected, and ask students to complete the analysis as if they had collected the data themselves. For cases where observations are part of the process, consider recording yourself or an AI completing the lab and ask students to take the necessary measurements and observations from the video. Students can then complete the analysis and reflection as usual. Students can collaborate on analysis and reporting using email, Canvas, or other collaborative tools.
    • Explore alternative forms of instruction. Online simulations, which allow students to interact virtually with the equipment and lab conditions, may offer valuable practice for students. Many online resources are available, including many that are free. A few that may be of interest include (but are not limited to):
      • PhET: Interactive Simulations for Science and Math - All simulations are free and cover topics including physics, chemistry, math, earth science, and biology.
      • Physics Simulations - A free collection of physics simulations with changeable parameters and real-time animation.
      • ACS: Virtual Chemistry and Simulations - A collection of chemistry simulations and virtual labs compiled by the American Chemical Society (ACS).
      • HHMI BioInteractive - Videos and interactive activities provided by HHMI (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) focused on biology.
      • Phone apps such as “Oscilloscope” or “Speed Gun” that allow students to interact with instruments or lab setups.

    (Sections above have been adapted from University of Michigan's Keep Teaching and Princeton’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning.)

  • I Use Canvas a lot. I Want to Take my Course to the Next Level.

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    Canvas offers a variety of advanced tools that allow you create more sophisticated course structure.  Some examples include:

    • Groups - Canvas offers a variety of way to organize students for group projects.  Canvas Groups can be used to assign Discussions and Assignments to small groups of students. Go to the Canvas Instructor's Guide page  to learn more. Google Docs connected in Canvas can provide a collaborative space for group work and Zoom within Canvas can provide a group meeting area.
    • Peer grading - Canvas Assignments can be set up for students to provide feedback and peer grades under instructor supervision. Go to the Canvas Instructor's Guide page to learn more.
    • Rubrics and outcomes - Canvas can incorporate learning outcomes at the program, department, and college level that can then be referenced and measured in common rubrics.  Instructors can create individual rubrics to standardize grading in their classes. Go to the Canvas Instructor's Guide page to learn more.
    • Video timeline discussions - Canvas Studio isn't only for lecture-capture.  You can assign discussions in Studio where students attach their discussion posts to points in a video for sharing and additional commentary.

    Want to brainstorm how to use these tools?  Email us at [email protected] to request a consultation with an instructional designer.

Where to get help

  • Tech questions about Canvas tools - Call the Canvas 24/7 Help Desk at 833.277.2150.  (The Help Desk answers immediately and reduces the load on instructional designers.)
  • For course connection problems and instructional design questions send an email to [email protected]

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